How do you make your study abroad scholarship stand out among your peers? What’s the best way to approach advisors and mentors for letters of recommendation? How can you find study abroad scholarships that fit your needs and will help you pay for study abroad?
In the latest Student Beyond Borders study abroad Podcast, we answer these questions and more while chatting with USAC’s Scholarship Coordinator, Sonia Meza.
Listen to the podcast and get highlights below.
What types of scholarship opportunities are available for students?
First things first, we want to make sure that all students know that there are so many different scholarships out there, that there’s really something for everyone. There are community-based scholarships, scholarships through your home university, and even specific scholarships for students interested in studying abroad.
Study abroad scholarships range from national scholarships and scholarships offered through your home university or study abroad provider, like USAC. There’s also scholarships for all types of students from underrepresented, to language learners, program-specific, study abroad location, STEM students, and more.
When talking about third-party scholarships, how can students make their applications stand out?
To start, understand the background of the scholarship. National scholarships all have different requirements but what that means is that most students qualify for more than one. You also need to know what type of student the scholarships is geared towards, say underrepresented, or first-generation, so that you can craft your application to fit the requirements.
Don’t be afraid to apply for national scholarships. Popular scholarships, like the Gilman Scholarship, have an award rate of 25% which means your chances of getting a scholarship are rather high.
Who is considered an underrepresented student in study abroad?
When students think of underrepresented students they tend to think first-generation, students of color, community college transfer students, but it really is an open definition when it comes to study abroad. For example, veterans, STEM students, growing up in a rural community; these are all factors that are considered underrepresented in study abroad.
What are the most common components of a scholarship application?
The most important pieces of a study abroad scholarship application that you can prepare for include:
- Personal story
- Letter of recommendation
- Advisor approval
- Financial aid documents
- Essay responses
What are tips for writing a good scholarship essay?
Know Your Program
Become very comfortable with answering the question “why did you choose your program?” The best way to do this is to research your program. Look into the location, the history of the program, the city you’ll be living in, courses, internships and volunteer opportunities, and anything else that can show that you’ve done your research.
When it comes time to talk about why you chose your program and why you’re choosing to study abroad in general, you want to speak to the fact that study abroad is an investment in your future. Focus on your future goals and aspirations and talk about how study abroad is going to help you achieve those goals. Answer the question, “what’s your five year plan and how does study abroad fit into it?”
Share your personal story
Everyone has a unique story and it needs to be told. Don’t feel like you’re telling a “pity” story. The purpose of telling your story is so that the person reading your application gets an idea of who you are as a person and a student, the struggles and challenges you’ve overcome and the strengths and benefits that have come with overcoming these obstacles. You have to talk about the hole you’re in and then describe the ladder you’ve built to step out of that hole.
Where can students find assistance writing scholarship essays?
As a student studying abroad through USAC we offer webinars that provide background information on scholarships as well as sample essays that have been awarded. We will email you with webinar times and options.
Another great place is your study abroad office on your campus. A lot of members have been advising on study abroad for a long time and have experience with scholarship applications.
Last, but not least is the writing center on your campus as well as diversity centers. Both can help you tell your story and write from a strength-based perspective.
How can students get great letters of recommendation?
The first thing is to consider who a good recommender would be. It does not have to be a professor or an academic advisor. You can use an organization where you worked or volunteered or anyone who can speak to who you are as a person.
Once you’ve decided who your recommenders will be, give your recommender at least two weeks to write the letter. Sit down and talk to them about your program and why you’re studying abroad so they can work that into their recommendation.
What’s the best way to prepare for a scholarship interview?
Head to the career center on your campus and let them know you want to practice your interview skills. Tell them you want to be prepared to have a conversation whether it be digitally or in person and you’re looking for some guidance on what the process might look like.
Where can students find more information on available scholarships?
- Start with the USAC website. Our Money Matters page has a long list of USAC hosted and third-party scholarships that are available to students.
- Attend any study abroad fairs that are happening on your campus
- Check out the financial aid page for your university
- Talk with your study abroad office on campus
- Research third-party study abroad scholarship pages
For more information about scholarships and funding your study abroad, head to the USAC website.